The Wisdom of Kindness

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The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau asked a question in the 1700s that still resonates today. He asked, “What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?”

His assertion that kindness is wisdom resonates with me as a leader during this period in our history. In a world full of challenges, from geopolitical tensions and climate crises to rising inflation and persistent economic inequality, it would be wise for us to practice kindness and forge connections to create a better future. I struggle to see any wisdom in polarization and tearing each other down when we all share a stake in our future. 

Beyond the global challenges we face, the changing shape of work demands we collaborate in new ways, even as many are grappling with the staggering losses of the pandemic. To create a workplace culture that attracts and retains talent in this new environment, leaders are leaning into empathy, compassion and vulnerability to create meaningful connections with employees. 

In fact, the theme of the consulting firm Korn Ferry’s Future of Work Trends Report for 2022 is “A New Era of Humanity.” While their predictions and recommendations don’t focus specifically on kindness, it is easy to see how being kind impacts inclusivity, accountability, and performance. Two of the report’s top five predictors of retention are “company shows care and concern for employees” and “trust and confidence in the company’s senior leadership team.”

As a leader of a collaborative community of distributors, suppliers and employees, I believe kindness is essential to our success. It’s a key element in building trust, and in creating a psychologically safe culture where everyone can thrive. We all know the positive feeling that comes from a kind word or gesture from a colleague - or even a stranger. In a world of escalating tensions and increased risks, it costs nothing to be kind. Yes, it’s a simple concept, but wisdom doesn’t have to be complicated. There are already enough complications for us to address in creating a better future together.

The Wisdom of Kindness Blog Banner, by Nancy Schmidt, CEO of AIA Corporation